Friday, March 19, 2010

Robots Teaching English in Korea!!!

Okay, so everyone and their mother has been blogging about this but what the hell, I'm going to put my own 2 cents in. Here is the article, "Robots Efficient in Teaching English."  The Korea Times has promoted robots replacing Native Speaking English Teachers ever since the idea came out. I will admit, if a robot replaced me currently, it could do just as good a job: it would speak when pointed to (or clicked or however it works) by the co-teacher and students to pronounce 'cold' instead of 'cord.' In terms of pronunciation it would do a much better job since many schools, native teacher present or not, get pronunciation bungled by people whose accents are less than perfect. However, when I do get to teach (winter camp, co-teacher absence, etc), really teach, with lesson plans that go outside of just reading and repeating whats in the textbook, the robot has nothing on me. Can a robot dance around the room with the students to get them into a song? Can a robot change course when it realizes that it needs to focus on something unexpected or the skill level that was supposed to be there isn't? Can a robot be creative? Can a robot engage figure out a student's learning issues and figure out what methods would be best to help them? Maybe the answer for all of these questions is not yet. I read Vonnegut's book, Player Piano last year where the world had essentially pushed out most jobs and replaced them mechanically.


Instead of spending billions developing robots...why not just properly train the current English teachers? Get a better English curriculum? Require that no Korean be used in the classroom? There are so many little things that can be done besides putting a robot in the classroom. And even if the students learn everything from the book with the robot, they still won't speak English well. Why? Because learning about where Jinho is from and what time is it for the 4 years they are in elementary school doesn't prepare them for actually holding a conversation in English.

4 comments:

Christian said...

I think you're taking this too seriously.

Alex said...

I think Korea's taking this too seriously, did you read that article? It wasn't the first one either...

Josh said...

i hope they never make a robot that is actually capable of acting like you kiddo....... that is just disturbing, the world can only handle one of you, of that I'm quite sure!

bessiejulia said...

Well, it would bring the student to teacher ratio down quite a bit, which is overdue. As far as results showing that a robot improved the kids' English speaking skills, I would think that's in comparison to not having a robot and perhaps not a native speaker. I'm with you that a robot couldn't replace my quality of teaching, although I've met teachers that the opposite might be true. Robots wouldn't spread swine flu, so that's one more point for them.

I think it's a pipe dream to say it would cut down dependency on a hagwons though! It would take a lot more than an economic crisis and robots to keep kids home from hagwon.